I generally like using iPhoto, Apple’s default image management and editing software. But with nearly 8,000 images in my library and limited RAM and hard drive space, opening the application and its accompanying 20 gigabytes of data was taking an eternity, and even basic tasks were becoming unwieldy.

I’ve now figured out a better way to manage my images using iPhoto. The solution isn’t revolutionary, but it’s working well, and I figured I’d share my new setup in case you’re facing a similar issue.

First, I bought an external hard drive and moved all of my photos off of my PowerBook. This was a no-brainer, and I should’ve done it a long time ago. Here’s Apple’s official description of the process. It’s pretty simple. (Note that I’ve got iPhoto version 5; I understand the newer version of the app makes this task even easier.)

Then I used a helpful add-on called iPhoto Library Manager to create a new library that I now store locally on my machine, while the album that holds my thousands of other images lives on my external hard drive. This Macworld article describes, with screen shots, how iPhoto Library Manager works. One thing I like about this application is that it’s very lightweight, and you can launch it and fiddle with your libraries without actually opening the resource-intensive iPhoto itself.

And finally, I happened upon an excellent little app called Image Capture, which I didn’t even know I had it on my machine. It’s a straightforward app that allows you to review, delete, rotate, and save images from your camera or memory card without opening iPhoto at all. This way, you don’t automatically import huge batches of images and then sift through them in iPhoto. Instead, you can simply delete images directly from the memory card and choose the images you want to keep. Then you decide where to save the good pics and then import them into iPhoto.

This detailed overview of Image Capture provides instructions for making the application open by default when you insert a memory card, rather than having iPhoto spring to life automatically.